What is Ganhwa Seon?

The Nature of Ganhwa Seon
Seon Master Dahui maintained that in illuminating the mind one “be enlightened immediately at the conclusion of a word.” Seon Master Yongjia Xuanjue (665-713) also, in his “Song of Enlightenment,” the Zhengdao ge, said, “Be clearly enlightened at the end of a word, and leap over at a jump the billions of Dharma-gates.”

Ganhwa Seon then is a method of practice that directly reaches enlightenment by leaping over the billions of Dharma-gates at the end of a brief action that is displayed in a moment, at a single word spoken by the Buddha or the generations of patriarchs. This is similar to the principle of when a light is turned on in a pitch-black room. In a moment everything is illuminated at a switch. Ganhwa Seon likewise leaps over immediately and directly enters the domain of the Tathāgata.

Again, Ganhwa Seon is “a Seon method to directly see one’s original nature by looking at (gan) the critical phase (hwadu).” If one sees one’s original nature that is enlightenment. This original nature is one’s self-nature that possesses everything. If one sees the nature and is enlightened, that is seeing the nature and becoming Buddha (gyeonseong seongbul).

Ganhwa Seon is the most developed of all the meditation methods that enlighten one to one’s own nature that came through India and China all the way from the Sakya Muni Buddha. The excellence of Ganhwa Seon is due to the fact that it conquers the various hwadu of the Seon masters that directly show that place of the mind, and where one sees the nature and becomes Buddha. This is because one sees the nature and becomes Buddha then and there. Hwadu is a word that cuts off the paths of language and thought. In having cut off the paths of language and thought, as soon as a person of superior ability has received the hwadu, they will at once be enlightened in that very place.

However, the majority of people cannot do this and have to take up the hwadu and begin to doubt. If so, they should take up an example of a hwadu and somehow investigate the hwadu and try to examine its meaning.

The following is the mu-character hwadu of the monk Zhaozhou (779-897):

    A monk asked Seon Master Zhaozhou, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?”
   The Seon Master replied, “It does not” (mu, no).

Here the practitioner is saying that “the Buddha said that all sentient beings have the Buddha-nature,” to which Zhaozhou said, “Why can’t you say they do not?”, thereby saying that one must entertain doubts. This is the gist of investigating the hwadu of the character mu.
Hwadu thus make the practitioner stir up a great doubt. And so the mind of the practitioner is totally made into a ball of doubt and is lead to a state in which that mass of doubt is finally exploded with a bang.

Hwadu also completely cuts off all conceivable exits. One cannot do this or that. That being so, one cannot settle down. Blocked on all sides by a silver mountain and iron walls, not even a puff of wind can pass through, and it is just as if one is standing inside an iron curtain.

One cannot affirm or deny. This won’t do and that won’t do. And so, even having something else won’t do. Ultimately there is no way to approach it. No path is permitted in any direction. Therefore it is the path of language cut off (eoneododan) and is the simhaengcheomyeol (action of the mind extinguished) in which the traces of the mind are also severed. In this place the hwadu that is a mass of doubt is vividly revived.

Why is Doubt Emphasized in Ganhwa Seon?
The life of Ganhwa Seon is in enlightenment through a thorough-going doubt. The hwadu burns up the ordinary, everyday discriminative consciousness and enlightens one to one’s own basic nature. When the discriminative consciousness of people, being tainted by one’s own colored glasses, sees an object it therefore makes a cognitive judgment and so is totally inadequate. So having this blind spot that cannot see reality as it is, daily one also gets used to this inadequacy.
This is because our everyday consciousness centered round the idea of “I,” tries to judge the world this way and that with a cleverness that still squirms endlessly. Our structure of reason that eats, drinks, considers and leads life seems to be originally like that. The question is whether one’s own original nature is hidden in such a discriminating consciousness, or whether its correct form is clearly displayed.

If one is to illuminate the original face, one has to take up the hwadu, become one with it, and enter into an earnest and piercing doubt. If one tries thus to become extremely skeptica and only the hwadu remains vividly, at that time when one meets some opportune condition and one smashes the hwadu, finally that is being enlightened immediately to one’s own original form.

This is just like a blind person while wandering around in the pitch black sincerely hoping that his eyes will be opened, meets with a certain opportunity, and in a flash has his eyes opened. However, if the eyes explore, one merely confirms that one originally was furnished with that enlightenment. And so the newly acquired thing also is not enlightenment.

Chapter 2: An outline of Ganhwa seon

What is Ganhwa Seon?

The Nature of Ganhwa Seon

Seon Master Dahui maintained that in illuminating the mind one “be enlightened immediately at the conclusion of a word.” Seon Master Yongjia Xuanjue (665-713) also, in his “Song of Enlightenment,” the Zhengdao ge, said, “Be clearly enlightened at the end of a word, and leap over at a jump the billions of Dharma-gates.”

Ganhwa Seon then is a method of practice that directly reaches enlightenment by leaping over the billions of Dharma-gates at the end of a brief action that is displayed in a moment, at a single word spoken by the Buddha or the generations of patriarchs. This is similar to the principle of when a light is turned on in a pitch-black room. In a moment everything is illuminated at a switch. Ganhwa Seon likewise leaps over immediately and directly enters the domain of the Tathāgata.

Again, Ganhwa Seon is “a Seon method to directly see one’s original nature by looking at (gan) the critical phase (hwadu).” If one sees one’s original nature that is enlightenment. This original nature is one’s self-nature that possesses everything. If one sees the nature and is enlightened, that is seeing the nature and becoming Buddha (gyeonseong seongbul).

Ganhwa Seon is the most developed of all the meditation methods that enlighten one to one’s own nature that came through India and China all the way from the Sakya Muni Buddha. The excellence of Ganhwa Seon is due to the fact that it conquers the various hwadu of the Seon masters that directly show that place of the mind, and where one sees the nature and becomes Buddha. This is because one sees the nature and becomes Buddha then and there. Hwadu is a word that cuts off the paths of language and thought. In having cut off the paths of language and thought, as soon as a person of superior ability has received the hwadu, they will at once be enlightened in that very place.

However, the majority of people cannot do this and have to take up the hwadu and begin to doubt. If so, they should take up an example of a hwadu and somehow investigate the hwadu and try to examine its meaning.

The following is the mu-character hwadu of the monk Zhaozhou (779-897):

             A monk asked Seon Master Zhaozhou, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?”
             The Seon Master replied, “It does not” (mu, no).
Here the practitioner is saying that “the Buddha said that all sentient beings have the Buddha-nature,” to which Zhaozhou said, “Why can’t you say they do not?”, thereby saying that one must entertain doubts. This is the gist of investigating the hwadu of the character mu.

Hwadu thus make the practitioner stir up a great doubt. And so the mind of the practitioner is totally made into a ball of doubt and is lead to a state in which that mass of doubt is finally exploded with a bang.

Hwadu also completely cuts off all conceivable exits. One cannot do this or that. That being so, one cannot settle down. Blocked on all sides by a silver mountain and iron walls, not even a puff of wind can pass through, and it is just as if one is standing inside an iron curtain.

One cannot affirm or deny. This won’t do and that won’t do. And so, even having something else won’t do. Ultimately there is no way to approach it. No path is permitted in any direction. Therefore it is the path of language cut off (eoneododan) and is the simhaengcheomyeol (action of the mind extinguished) in which the traces of the mind are also severed. In this place the hwadu that is a mass of doubt is vividly revived.

Why is Doubt Emphasized in Ganhwa Seon?

The life of Ganhwa Seon is in enlightenment through a thorough-going doubt. The hwadu burns up the ordinary, everyday discriminative consciousness and enlightens one to one’s own basic nature. When the discriminative consciousness of people, being tainted by one’s own colored glasses, sees an object it therefore makes a cognitive judgment and so is totally inadequate. So having this blind spot that cannot see reality as it is, daily one also gets used to this inadequacy.

This is because our everyday consciousness centered round the idea of “I,” tries to judge the world this way and that with a cleverness that still squirms endlessly. Our structure of reason that eats, drinks, considers and leads life seems to be originally like that. The question is whether one’s own original nature is hidden in such a discriminating consciousness, or whether its correct form is clearly displayed.

If one is to illuminate the original face, one has to take up the hwadu, become one with it, and enter into an earnest and piercing doubt. If one tries thus to become extremely skeptica and only the hwadu remains vividly, at that time when one meets some opportune condition and one smashes the hwadu, finally that is being enlightened immediately to one’s own original form.

This is just like a blind person while wandering around in the pitch black sincerely hoping that his eyes will be opened, meets with a certain opportunity, and in a flash has his eyes opened. However, if the eyes explore, one merely confirms that one originally was furnished with that enlightenment. And so the newly acquired thing also is not enlightenment.

The House Style of Korean Patriarchal Seon

Korean Buddhism breathes a vivid life with the practice of Patriarchal Seon House style of Ganhwa Seon. This is something really rare that cannot be found in other Buddhist domains.

Each year in Jogye Order, over 2,000 meditation monks and over 100 Seon cloisters enter the summer or winter retreats for three months at a time. Retreat means that the monk refrains completely from leaving or entering the gate of the Seon cloister and vigorously practices (jeongjin or vīrya, strenuous effort, zealous practice) meditation. For the period of the retreat the practitioners of the cloister rise from their sleeping places at the get-up time of the monastery, which is 3.00 am, or even earlier, at 2.00 am. After getting up, at the sound of a bamboo clapper the assembly of the Seon cloister gathers and wordlessly worships the Buddha with three bows. In the Seon cloister, with the exception of the times when they gather to eat, the gongyang time, and when they work together physically, according to the pure regulations of each Seon cloister, they devote themselves solely to the zealous pursuit of sitting in meditation from the getting-up time until 9.00 or 10.00, and sometimes 11.00 pm in the evening. The times of a Seon cloister’s zealous practice differs because the custom for that practice differs according to the cloister. The customs for zealous practice of meditation in Seon cloisters are usually divided into three types:

             The first is the normal zealous practice. The daily zealous practice is to sit in meditation for eight or ten hours per day.
             The second is the additional zealous practice, which is to spur on even more than the everyday zealous practice, with the aim of exerting oneself even more and practicing meditation for twelve or even fourteen hours per day.
             The third is ferocious zealous practice. One practices zealously without sleeping day or night for twenty-four hours, and one practices meditation for eighteen hours or more. In the majority of Seon cloisters, for seven days all the assembly practices this, and in some Seon cloisters this even lasts for one month.

Besides vigorous zealous practice, there is also jangjwa bulwa (long sitting and no lying down), which is sitting in meditation without lying down for a set period of three months or even longer, and there is also the practice of the gateless barrier (mumungwan) in which one zealosly practices meditation alone without going outside of a locked door and staying alone in a single room. This practice of mumungwan can last six months, a year, three years or at most six years. In addition there is the formation of fraternities (gyeolsa) for fifteen months or three years etcetera, in which all of the assembly is banned from going beyond the monastery gate, and one practices zealously for a set period of time in the Seon cloister.

When the retreat ends, the Seon monks leave for manhaeng (various supplementary practices). These Seon monks are calledunsu (cloud and water) monks in the sense that they are practitioner monks who drift like clouds and river water. The reason for departing for manhaeng is this is where they will see spread out in the field of concrete life the state that is caused by the zealous practice of meditation during the period of the retreat. And they also receive an examination of the condition of their practice or their own enlightenment from the keen-eyed masters they seek out. Manhaeng also is a practice of seeking the Way, in that they consistently hold the hwadu during the various aspects of life. Again, some meditation monks also pursue zealous practice in the monastic retreat, which is not a set period retreat, but continues even in the period of freedom, along with their practice in the Seon cloister.

In each of the secluded and pristine mountains of Korea there are Seon cloisters and small hermitages. In such places are gathered unsu meditation monks who are trying to illuminate the eternal darkness, entering into the samādhi of single-mindedly seated in meditation and not budging in the slightest from their hwadu. Also, many lay Buddhists hold their hwadu and zealously practice Seon meditation in citizen’s Seon rooms in the city centers, trying to illuminate their own mind-nature.

The History and Tradition of Korean Seon

The Arrival of Seon and the Acceptance of Patriarchal Seon

The Ganhwa Seon of Korea is a mainstream lineage of Patriarchal Seon that accepted entirely the current of Patriarchal Seon established by the Sixth Patriarch Huineng. The Seon Dharma first entered Korea at the end of the Silla and start of the Goryeo dynasties, when monks who were foreign students seeking the Dharma in the Tang Dynasty received the Dharma from China and began to disseminate it in Korea.

Most of them received the Seon Dharma from Seon Master Huineng’s disciples, and they formed the Nine Mountain Seon Schools (kusan Seonmun). By the Goryeo period, these Nine Mountain Seon Schools were collectively called Jogyejong, which was the Seon School that received the Seon Dharma of Seon Master Huineng.

The school name, “Jogyejong” of the Dae Han Bulgyo Jogyejong is derived from the name of the mountain where Seon Master Huineng resided and unfolded the Seon Dharma of sudden enlightenment. From the time of the Tang and Song dynasties, Seon Master Huineng was called Caoqi Huineng (Kor. Jogye Hyeneung). From this it is clear that the Jogyejong has continued to maintain the mainstream lineage of Patriarchal Seon in its true state.

The ancestor of Jogyejong, National Teacher Do-ui received the Seon Dharma from Xitang Zhizang (735-814) in the fourth generation from Huineng. National Teacher Do-ui worshipped and consulted Zhizang as his master, dispelled the ball of doubt he had amassed and finally overcame the indigestion that blocked his enlightenment. Zhizang, seeing this, just as if he had picked out a beautiful jade from among the pebbles or a pearl from the oyster shell, was happy and said, “Truly if I do not transmit the Dharma to this man then to whom would I transmit it?” (Jodangjip 17).

In the Goryeo period, with the advent of the Cheontae (Chi. Tientai) School that had the powerful backing of the royal clan, the Seon School shrank somewhat. Approaching the twelfth century, while consolidating the School, it proceeded to build a new foundation.  National Teacher Won-eung Hag-il (1052-1144) of the Gaji Mountain Gate and National Teacher Daegam Tanyeon (1070-1159) of the Sa-gul Mountain Gate acted vigorously to restore the Seon School. Moreover, Layman Yi Jahyeon (1061-1125), who had extensive connections with the Seon monks and who at that time exercised huge influence on the Seon thought of the Goryeo, initiated the flowering of an invigorating layperson’s Buddhism.

The Acceptance and Consolidation of Ganhwa Seon
In the period of military dominance in the Goryeo, with the advent of Seon Master Bojo Jinul (1158-1210), the Seon-style rose strongly once again. At Suseonsa (Cultivation of Seon Society – today’s Songgwang-sa Monastery), National Teacher Bojo developed the Jeonghye Gyeolsa that was a movement for the joint practice of meditation and wisdom, and meditation practitioners gathered there from all over.  Then, for the first time, the Ganhwa Seon method established by Dahui (1089-1163) was introduced into Korea by Bojo. The National Teacher offered Ganhwa Seon for the practitioners of outstanding ability.

However, the person who genuinely accepted ganhwa Seon into Goryeo Buddhism was National Teacher Jin-gak Hyesim (1178-1234). Seon Master Hyesim compiled the Seonmun yeomsong, the very first collection of gongan (Jap. koan) in Korea. This collection of gongan opened up a concrete path for practitioners to study (gongbu or concentrated effort) hwadu. Moreover, Hyesim clarified in detail the concrete troubles and symptoms that can occur when studying, and elucidated the topic of the hwadu of the character “no” (the story of a dog having no Buddha-nature).

After Seon Master Hyesim, the Ganhwa Seon method of practice and style was continued through sixteen national teachers of Suseonsa. Of course, even in the period while they were active, the practice method of Ganhwa Seon entered Goryeo from China several times.
In 1270, the military regime collapsed and Suseonsa fell to a low ebb, but the current of Ganhwa Seon was renewed by Seon Master Iryeon (1200-1289) who consolidated the Seon style. Around this time, many Seon monks of the Goryeo entered into Yuan China in active pursuit of the Dharma, and through them many Seon texts and new Seon methods were introduced, and so the Goryeo Seon School encountered a new phase.

The Development of Ganhwa Seon and its Complete Consolidation
The firm establishment of Ganhwa Seon in Korea was accomplished by the activities of three teachers at the end of the Goryeo. They were Seon masters Taego Bou (1301-1381), Naong Hye-geun (1320-1376) and Baeg-un Gyeonghan (1299-1375). They all went to China, and through their exchanges with genuine lineage teachers of the Seon Gate, after inheriting the correct Dharma lineage of the Linji Branch, they returned to Goryeo. In this way these three teachers, after being enlightened to the teaching of Chan Master Mengshan of Yuan China, who had freshly formed the new Seon style of the Seon Gate of Goryeo, they sought out the true teachers of the lineage (literally, lineage masters of original complexion), received their seal of approval, and established a strict tradition.

Although it is a fact that Seon masters Naong Hyegeun and Baeg-un Gyeonghan’s activities were outstanding, it was rather National Teacher Taego Bou who spread Ganhwa Seon widely at the end of the Goryeo and firmly established it. National Teacher Bou argued that one transcended the Buddha through the house style of one’s own lineage teacher (literally, lineage master who originally shared in enlightenment), and as the teaching of Seon that passes over the patriarchs says, “Even though one has all the teachings of the Tripitaka, the 1,700 gongans, the shouts of Linji or the blows of Deshan, from the viewpoint of the original teacher of the lineage it is all in vain.”

The National Teacher taught that one practice Ganhwa Seon, investigate the hwadu and try not to interrupt doubt, and after conquering the hwadu, one seeks out one’s true lineage teacher and has him confirm one’s enlightened state. That is, Seon Master Taego clearly established a Ganhwa Seon practice system in which one investigated the hwadu, and after enlightenment, sought out one’s true lineage teacher and asked him to judge if it was truly enlightenment or not.

The reason National Teacher Taego Bou is venerated as the restoration patriarch of Korean Buddhist Jogye order is because he firmly established such a systematic practice of Ganhwa Seon, and because he received and brought the mainstream lineage of Linji (Kor. Imje) Seon from China, and because that Dharma-lineage has passed down through Joseon Buddhism without break to the present day.
The Transmission of Ganhwa Seon in the Joseon period and the Revival of Ganhwa Seon in Recent Times
The Ganhwa Seon Dharma was fully consolidated in Korea by National Teacher Bou, and through his agency occupied a firm place as the leading method of practice in Korean Buddhism. Bou’s Seon lineage was continued by Seon masters Hwan-am Honsu (1320-1392), Gu-gok Gag-un, Byeoggye Jeongsim, Byeoksong Ji-eom (1464-1534), Buyong Yeonggwan (1485-1571), when it formed the two mountain branch lineages of Seon masters Cheongheo Hyujeong (1520-1604) and Buhyu Seonsu (1543-1615).

In Seon Master Seosan Hyujeong’s school, the two great masters Pyeonyang Eon-gi (1581-1644) and Sa-myeong Yujeong (1544-1610) appeared, and of them, the faction of Seon Master Pyeonyang Eon-gi flourished in later times. This latter Seon lineage was continued by masters Pungdam Uisim (1592-1655), Woldam Seoljye (1632-1704) and Hwanseong Jian (1664-1729).

In recent times, Seon Masters Gyeongheo Seong-u (1846-1912) and Yongseong Chinjong (1864-1940) greatly promoted the Ganhwa Seon style. Gyeongheo succeeded to the Dharma of Seon Master Yong-am Hye-eon. The advent of Gyeongheo was the direct occasion for the revival of the Seon style of Ganhwa Seon that had been dying out. Gyeongheo’s disciples were Suwol (1855-1928), Hyewol (1855-1928), Man-gong (1871-1946) and Han-am (1876-1951) among others. Seon Master Yeongseong succeeded to the Dharma lineage of Hwanseong Jian. In Ganhwa Seon what is valued above all else is the Dharma. So after Hwanseong, the isolated lineage school was reactivated due to them and has been carried on till the present day. Their Seon style is a line of Ganhwa Seon that has its basis fully in Patriarchal Seon.

The Meaning and Currents of Patriarchal Seon

The Meaning of Patriarchal Seon
Patriarchal Seon is the Dharma Gate (teaching) that immediately shows one the world of enlightenment that was originally attained fully by all of the patriarchs. If one stands at this gate, the path of language and thought is cut off, and one is clearly enlightened that one is originally Buddha (awakened) and enjoys a free life where one is not trapped anywhere.

There is a phrase, “physically naked golden wind.” This phrase tells of the original form of trees nakedly displayed when all the leaves have fallen in the autumnal wind. When one is enlightened the true form of the Dharma-realm that has eliminated the egoistic way of existence that is language and thought is thus itself revealed. Patriarchal Seon is just like this.

The Buddha, by means of transmitting from mind to mind the world of enlightenment that he himself had experienced, transmitted it to the Venerable Mahākāśyapa. The opportune condition (occasion) for this was as follows:
 
One day the Buddha held up a lotus flower and showed it to a great assembly of many people. Only Mahākāśyapa of that assembly broke into a smile. When the Buddha held up that lotus to show his mind, Mahākāśyapa was immediately enlightened to that mind and responded with a smile.

That is exactly the meaning of “when a flower was lifted up he smiled with laughter” or yeomhwa miso.
Seon was born on the occasion of the profound meaning of “held up a flower and smiled.” This Dharma that was transmitted from the Buddha to Mahākāśyapa was later also passed on from master to disciple without a break.

Patriarch Bodhidharma was the twenty-eighth in the Indian lineage who received this Dharma. Bodhidharma traveled to China and transmitted the Buddha’s genuine Seon Dharma, and he became the first patriarch of the East.

The Currents of Patriarchal Seon
The Chinese Seon (Chan) School began with Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth patriarch of India and the first patriarch of China. In this way the Seon Dharma that the Buddha transmitted was continuously inherited through the Seon Masters; the First Patriarch Bodhidharma (n.d.), the Second Patriarch Huike (487-593), the Third Patriarch Sengcan (?-606), the Fourth Patriarch Daoxin (580-651), the Fifth Patriarch Hongren (594-674), and the Sixth Patriarch Huineng (638-713). Thus the great current of the Seon School was formed.

Patriarch Bodhidharma saw his mind-nature by sitting for nine years facing a wall at Shaolin Monastery, and through the generations the patriarchs passed it on from mind to mind. This was why it was called Patriarchal Seon.

It was the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng who substantially grounded Patriarchal Seon in China. Seon Master Huineng elucidated the dono gyeonseong that is the perfect awakening immediately to that nature by direct pointing at the self-nature that all people originally possess. That the Seon School could flow uninterrupted in China was because Seon Master Huineng fully unfolded this Seon Dharma of sudden enlightenment.

The person who firmly established the Seon Dharma of Huineng was his pupil, Seon Master Heze Shenhui (670-762). Shenhui greatly highlighted Huineng’s sudden-enlightenment method of seeing the nature that directly enters the mind. After Shenhui, those who made Patriarchal Seon flourish were the excellent teachers, Seon masters Mazu Daoyi (709-788) and Shitou Xiqian (700-790). They promoted the Patriarchal Seon style centered on Jiangxi and Hunan to the south of the Yangzi River. Seon masters Mazu and Shitou spread Patriarchal Seon widely and gathered many distinguished pupils, which rooted the Seon School firmly into the soil of history.

For example, among Seon Master Mazu’s pupils was Seon Master Baizhang Huaihai (749-814). Baizhang instituted the pure rules for the Seon cloister and made the very first Seon collective practice monastery (chongnim). Moreover, he personally practiced the lifestyle principle of, “if one does not work for a day, one does not eat for a day,” and instituted a key of the Seon cloister community that concentrated on practice while living self-sufficiently. This made the Seon School stand tall on the rock of history.

Many of the good pupils of Seon masters Mazu and Shitou produced many Seon masters themselves and they spread the Seon Dharma widely, not only in China, but also in north-east Asia.

By the middle of the twelfth century, Seon Master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1152) fostered silent-illumination Seon and Seon Master Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163), while criticizing this silent-illumination, systematized Ganhwa Seon (Ch. Kanhua Chan) and spread it widely. So Patriarchal Seon was divided between the methods of practice of silent illumination and Ganhwa Seon.

The Ganhwa Seon systematized by Dahui Zonggao is a method of practice that best maintains the core of Patriarchal Seon. In other words, not only is Ganhwa Seon heir to the experience of seeing the nature that was emphasized by Patriarchal Seon, but also the patriarchal monks standardized the form of the words called hwadu that cut off the path of words and which directly showed the mind’s original face. Through this hwadu, from this point on, it was a method of practice that awakens the mind.

Chapter 1: Patriarchal seon and its historical development

The Meaning and Currents of Patriarchal Seon

The Meaning of Patriarchal Seon
Patriarchal Seon is the Dharma Gate (teaching) that immediately shows one the world of enlightenment that was originally attained fully by all of the patriarchs. If one stands at this gate, the path of language and thought is cut off, and one is clearly enlightened that one is originally Buddha (awakened) and enjoys a free life where one is not trapped anywhere.

There is a phrase, “physically naked golden wind.” This phrase tells of the original form of trees nakedly displayed when all the leaves have fallen in the autumnal wind. When one is enlightened the true form of the Dharma-realm that has eliminated the egoistic way of existence that is language and thought is thus itself revealed. Patriarchal Seon is just like this.

The Buddha, by means of transmitting from mind to mind the world of enlightenment that he himself had experienced, transmitted it to the Venerable Mahākāśyapa. The opportune condition (occasion) for this was as follows:
 
One day the Buddha held up a lotus flower and showed it to a great assembly of many people. Only Mahākāśyapa of that assembly broke into a smile. When the Buddha held up that lotus to show his mind, Mahākāśyapa was immediately enlightened to that mind and responded with a smile.

That is exactly the meaning of “when a flower was lifted up he smiled with laughter” or yeomhwa miso.

Seon was born on the occasion of the profound meaning of “held up a flower and smiled.” This Dharma that was transmitted from the Buddha to Mahākāśyapa was later also passed on from master to disciple without a break.

Patriarch Bodhidharma was the twenty-eighth in the Indian lineage who received this Dharma. Bodhidharma traveled to China and transmitted the Buddha’s genuine Seon Dharma, and he became the first patriarch of the East.
The Currents of Patriarchal Seon
The Chinese Seon (Chan) School began with Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth patriarch of India and the first patriarch of China. In this way the Seon Dharma that the Buddha transmitted was continuously inherited through the Seon Masters; the First Patriarch Bodhidharma (n.d.), the Second Patriarch Huike (487-593), the Third Patriarch Sengcan (?-606), the Fourth Patriarch Daoxin (580-651), the Fifth Patriarch Hongren (594-674), and the Sixth Patriarch Huineng (638-713). Thus the great current of the Seon School was formed.

Patriarch Bodhidharma saw his mind-nature by sitting for nine years facing a wall at Shaolin Monastery, and through the generations the patriarchs passed it on from mind to mind. This was why it was called Patriarchal Seon.

It was the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng who substantially grounded Patriarchal Seon in China. Seon Master Huineng elucidated the dono gyeonseong that is the perfect awakening immediately to that nature by direct pointing at the self-nature that all people originally possess. That the Seon School could flow uninterrupted in China was because Seon Master Huineng fully unfolded this Seon Dharma of sudden enlightenment.

The person who firmly established the Seon Dharma of Huineng was his pupil, Seon Master Heze Shenhui (670-762). Shenhui greatly highlighted Huineng’s sudden-enlightenment method of seeing the nature that directly enters the mind. After Shenhui, those who made Patriarchal Seon flourish were the excellent teachers, Seon masters Mazu Daoyi (709-788) and Shitou Xiqian (700-790). They promoted the Patriarchal Seon style centered on Jiangxi and Hunan to the south of the Yangzi River. Seon masters Mazu and Shitou spread Patriarchal Seon widely and gathered many distinguished pupils, which rooted the Seon School firmly into the soil of history.

For example, among Seon Master Mazu’s pupils was Seon Master Baizhang Huaihai (749-814). Baizhang instituted the pure rules for the Seon cloister and made the very first Seon collective practice monastery (chongnim). Moreover, he personally practiced the lifestyle principle of, “if one does not work for a day, one does not eat for a day,” and instituted a key of the Seon cloister community that concentrated on practice while living self-sufficiently. This made the Seon School stand tall on the rock of history.

Many of the good pupils of Seon masters Mazu and Shitou produced many Seon masters themselves and they spread the Seon Dharma widely, not only in China, but also in north-east Asia.

By the middle of the twelfth century, Seon Master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1152) fostered silent-illumination Seon and Seon Master Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163), while criticizing this silent-illumination, systematized Ganhwa Seon (Ch. Kanhua Chan) and spread it widely. So Patriarchal Seon was divided between the methods of practice of silent illumination and Ganhwa Seon.

The Ganhwa Seon systematized by Dahui Zonggao is a method of practice that best maintains the core of Patriarchal Seon. In other words, not only is Ganhwa Seon heir to the experience of seeing the nature that was emphasized by Patriarchal Seon, but also the patriarchal monks standardized the form of the words called hwadu that cut off the path of words and which directly showed the mind’s original face. Through this hwadu, from this point on, it was a method of practice that awakens the mind.

PART 1: The Stage of basic

Preface

Invitation to Ganhwaseon

A Way to a Joyful Life Free from Troubles

“Who am I? Where am I going?”
Sometimes, these questions arise in our mind spontaneously and sometimes other people ask them – suddenly in a moment of deep reflection.
Well, let’s try and ask very seriously for once; and then answer very clearly just for once. Try, now, for a moment, to find out who you really are, what you are made of and or where you are going. Most probably you will fail to answer; most probably you will fail 100%! Such fundamental questions are not solved by rational thinking because logic has limitations. Moreover, these questions are ones that your knowledge and experience cannot give you any insight into. They need some other dimension, some other methodology.
Let’s ask again from another view point.
“How and what can I do so as to live really well? What can I do to be truly free and peaceful? How can I live in eternal happiness and with unshakable confidence? Can I be content with myself, with my ability to share with others? Can I live without hurting others or without being hurt by someone else? Where on this earth can I find a way to learn to live in a natural and gentle way?”
Ganhwaseon, the Korean system of meditation, gives a short, clear answer to these questions. It suggests a way to live in confidence, with vigor and in freedom. It is a way to live – like a Buddha.
Look at the world! Open your eyes! Most people hanging on to worldly life look so weary and tired in all that hustle and bustle. Look! There are students giving  their lives for studying; lovers giving their lives for love; people giving their lives for money; employees of companies giving their lives for the company; members of families giving their lives for the family.
So let us speculate about what could happen in the future. It is possible to imagine that everything you are familiar with becomes other, it becomes strange and this strangeness is difficult to understand. When your expectations are not realized then you are hurt by the person or the situation; you suffer. The cold reality of uncertainty may be the cause of your disappointment. The cause of this suffering is due to your lack of awareness about who you are and why you are alive. Because you have lived continually without – beside – yourself and have relied on external objects, the result is that your mind, your heart is hurt.
You should center yourself and live depending on yourself without becoming attached to external objects, without being pulled in different directions by different people. You should find value in yourself and create a worthy and a worthwhile existence. You should make of yourself a firm and confident person, one that is not easily changeable. Of course this requires that serious search for yourself and the need to know yourself. Only then you can center yourself. Once in the center, you do not follow external objects but you find that they follow you instead. As Master Chao-chou said, “Live 24 hours by yourself!” It is actually sad and regretful that the reality is that you live with yourself all the time but do not see or know yourself!
“I should decide now to find out who I am; I should decide to see myself.”
You already know, “The way to find myself is impossible just by using rational thinking and words. If I insist on trying this method, I will fail as I have in the past.”
A western philosopher, Rene Descartes, said the famous words, “I think, therefore I am.” He seemed to have found a clear answer and felt his existence firmly understandable. Thinking is the result of becoming conscious of thinking. Descartes opined that only the action of thinking is clear evidence of our existence.
But thinking is a rational action and rational consciousness always appears in the form of the “self.” This “self” likes to distinguish between things, to discriminate and to cling to what it perceives as mine. It likes to separate one thing from another, to differentiate and to judge right from wrong. It always sees things in this way, by judging and comparing with other things. Due to this, reality is obscured and only narrow, limited physical forms are seen and then these are called “the truth.” You may even find yourself claiming that this is the true “I” and so find yourself further away from the true nature of things.
This is why we say that our True Nature, who we really are, cannot be found by rational thinking or the use of words. There is simply no way to find an answer to the question in this way.
After this realization, you come to the point where you cut out words and thinking from the range of possible answers to the questions. And, if you are lucky and persevere, you will see your True Nature and so know who you are. Then you will find yourself totally alive. And being clearly alive yourself everything follows on. Suddenly your emotions become more genuine and comprehensible, and you can see the real you.
For, the self doesn’t think. The thing that makes you move thinks and that should be your center, you should feel that movement. Then, by being together with that; you can really love, really study, really work, and really sing. From that moment on, obstacles don’t arise any more and you feel free from hindrances.
Ganhwaseon is a meditation practice which involves investigating a hwadu. The hwadu is the main line, the punch line in an ancient story of attainment. It is an enigmatic question which puts to an end our rational thinking. It is therefore a word before the words that result from thought. It is a thought before thought. It is beyond words and beyond thinking. Hwadu cuts through the way of thinking and it cuts through any resulting words. In this way it prevents rational thinking and lets you return to the realm of the Buddha. Therefore, as hwadu is solved, the truth is discovered.
Investigating hwadu involves the entire body and the entire mind: they must both be constantly full of hwadu. When you and your hwadu become one, all differentiated thoughts and illusions disappear. Thus, if you find the answer to your hwadu, you come to enlightenment immediately. You can then clearly identify who is the Buddha and then you and I become one, and we both together unite with empty space.
In daily life you will find that, as you have your hwadu in your mind, you do not waver even in front of difficult situations. You do not shake with emotion and are not ruled by pure rational thinking. You do not distinguish one thing from another or compare one thing to another. You do not get hurt nor do you get angry.
Thus, your daily life becomes peaceful and happy. And ultimately if you solve your hwadu, you can see yourself clearly as never before. The aim of your life becomes clear and you no longer worry about where to go or what to do because you are centered in the present moment. Thus, wherever you go it is with confidence that you confront life and you can now truly stand alone in the universe.
Now you have finally become yourself and you can see your True Nature. So liberated from previous pressures and obstacles, your spirit remains free and, though your body may suffer, you yourself do not.
So please take a hwadu, and investigate it with all your power. As you progress free from any rational thinking, the moment you solve your hwadu, you will be a Buddha here and now. Every one of your actions is the action of a Buddha — no trace remains in a Buddha’s actions. Just as birds leave no trace in the sky; they are simply beautiful.
Korea has carefully preserved the tradition of Ganhwaseon practice. The material that you have just read comes from the teachings of Seon masters as they have always taught in the Seon halls.
If you are able to come and join us in practice, then you will experience a new world which is like the truth of the blue sky.
Again question…
“Who am I?”
Answer immediately, without hesitation, without your rational thinking.

Just answer…

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